It was a beautiful sunny day in Chicago when I arrived at DePaul University to see a Q&A session with national horror host and broadcaster, Rich Koz/Svengoolie! While I’ve seen him at various appearances this would mark the first time I would catch him without his familiar make-up and, rather than greet fans, get to see him discuss his vast career.
With Chicago currently under siege with visitors and protestors regarding the NATO Summit taking place this weekend, I left early fearing what was in store. Happily, I arrived unscathed and without any problems navigating courtesy of a GPS given to me by my best pal, and equally directionally challenged, David Albaugh. Upon my arrival, I was directed to the lower level of The DePaul Richard & Maggie Daley Building and entered the theater where Koz would be appearing. The theater was dark as a movie was in progress, so I figured I’d grab a seat in front and wait for it to end. I’m not sure what the name of the film was but it was Italian, subtitled, and seemed to be about street gangs. After 20 minutes or so, a woman got up from behind me and approached the podium (located right in front of me) carrying a notebook. I figured she must be getting ready for the Svengoolie talk until she turned on the lights and said, “Well class, any thoughts about what we’ve just seen?”
Apparently I’d just crashed a film class and, as I sheepishly looked behind me, saw a room full of college kids and me sticking out like Rodney Dangerfield in BACK TO SCHOOL. I kept my head lowered as the teacher, who was literally standing two feet in front of me, discussed the movie. After several minutes of her observations I thought, “Hmmm, this is actually pretty interesting. Maybe I should look into seeing if my local community college offers something like this?” Then she proceeded to give the students instructions on their next essay paper due the following week. “On second thought…”
When the class was dismissed, I ran out the door with them, thankful she hadn’t called me out. I no sooner exited the theater when I bumped into some old friends and fellow Sven fans, Ron and Angela Urban. They pointed me to a small buffet offered to guests of the Rich Koz event and, since I was pretty hungry, I dived right in. After munching on some chips and guacamole as well as fried ravioli, we made our way back into the theater and took our seats. We chose to sit about three rows from the front and center. “We can’t sit in the front row,” warned Angela, “otherwise we’ll totally stick out and they might call on us.” Where was Angela the first time I came in here???
Soon Rich Koz entered the room and took his chair on stage next to the interviewer. He’d brought along a promo clip that was narrated by the first Svengoolie, Jerry G. Bishop, and gave a bit of Svengoolie history along with some great clips from Koz’s career which included his Son of Svengoolie days, his work on FOX via The Koz Zone, and on to becoming simply Svengoolie and working at WCIU (this was made some years back and before he would go national with MeTV).
Rich was asked about his take on horror hosting and where its going in terms of a profession. “Stations work much differently these days and hiring a host for commercial TV is extremely rare,” he said. He also mentioned Elvira and the difficulty she had getting her new “Movie Macabre” into a second season. Koz has the distinction of not only being one of the few remaining successful commercial TV hosts but also one allowed to show the classic Universal films that have been absent from “free” TV for quite a while. He spoke about the restrictions these films have regarding what and when they can be shown, something we discussed last February when he aired The Marx Brothers’ DUCK SOUP. As he will be showing another Marx Brother’s film this weekend (HORSE FEATHERS) you may want to check out that story by clicking HERE before filing any complaints. When asked what film he wished he could show, he said without hesitation, FIEND WITHOUT A FACE.
Koz, like us Terror Daves, has a very eclectic taste in movies and, aside from the classics, also enjoys the 80’s slashers such as HALLOWEEN and NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. He was proud to mention the time he met NIGHTMARE’s Robert Englund and how the star professed him as being his “favorite horror host,” something he also reiterated to us Daves back in October.
Also mentioned was the 3D debacle he experienced back when he was the Son of Svengoolie and aired REVENGE OF THE CREATURE . Many viewers complained about the bad results; one even going so far as to take legal action (over an 89 cent pair of 3D glasses, c’mon people!). I, for one, was unaware of this backlash at the time and have only fond memories of my mom surprising us with the glasses as we all camped out in front of the TV.
Other Sven tidbits…
The Make-up: Svengoolie puts on his own make-up and it takes him about 30 minutes. Biggest pain is removing it after the show but the best way to do so is via baby wipes!
Parody Songs: Grew up practicing music and is a big fan of ALL styles. There is no exact formula as to which song he chooses.
Passing the torch: Believes that any horror host that may succeed him should be their own character and no more Svengoolies.
Aside from horror movies, Koz also hosts his weekly STOOGE-A-PALOOZA and stated that, while he has learned a lot and is certainly a huge fan of “The Three Stooges,” he has never professed to being an expert on them (having heard him recite many great Stooge tidbits over the years, I’d say he’s being modest). At this date, he has not seen THE THREE STOOGES movie (a question he is asked a lot) and, as a comic book fan, admitted he is more likely to check out THE AVENGERS first (good choice!). When asked what super hero films he’s enjoyed he said he liked IRON MAN and CAPTAIN AMERICA (one of his favorite characters) a lot and that some of the BATMAN films were also good. He wishes that they would create a decent movie on DC’s “The Justice League” and, judging by the success of THE AVENGERS, is hopeful that this will one day happen. Also revealed was that the talented artist, Alex Ross, is a Svengoolie fan and determined to create a comic book dedicated to his favorite host.
The next part of the session was called “The lightning round” where Rich was asked to give his opinion on a slide – usually a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” kind of thing.
Afterwards the audience (mostly college kids) were given there chance to ask questions which ranged from his references to the Chicago suburb of Berwyn to what his favorite movies were outside of horror; BROTHER WHERE ART THOU, THE BLUES BROTHERS, and CASABLANCA to name a few. He also was asked what he thought of the TV show “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” to which he stated that he was a fan (Yay!). His biggest confession, however, was enjoying the much maligned VAN HELSING. Aside from some CGI issues here and there, I gotta say that I didn’t mind that one either.
As everyone left, we came up on stage to say “hello” to the man of the hour (or in this case, TWO hours) and I admit that it was a bit odd for me seeing him as a mere mortal.
We said our goodbyes and left with the sun down but weather still warm and nice. As I made my way towards the parking garage I couldn’t help but feel a bit of pride for that crazy horror host I’d grown up with and am now able to share with my own kids. Somehow seeing him without the make-up and sans his signature rubber chicken reminded me that beneath it all there is a true TV legend…
One I have become fortunate to also call, friend.